Why #waterforbali is a Story of Tourism
From water depletion to water pollution, understand why and what you can do
Prior to the coronavirus pandemic Aussie travellers were in the top 3 most frequent flyers to Bali,
Indonesia. This is important because 80% of Bali’s economy relies on tourism, and tourism uses
65% of Bali’s depleting water sources. And, when you consider 60% of Bali’s water table is
declared dry you can start to put the pieces together as to why clean #waterforbali is every
Australians and every tourists responsibility.
“clean #waterforbali is every Australians and every tourists responsibility”
Water depletion and water pollution in Bali is at the core of why Corethics exist. By sharing our
journey we hope to ignite curiosity and cause for action amongst our community.
There’s not a lot of research on water depletion and pollution and its link to tourism in Bali.
However, I did find one research paper that stood out. Stroma Cole, senior lecturer in tourism geography at the University of the West of England and Director at Equality in Tourism, in her research, set a profound framework for understanding the interwoven relationship between water and tourism, amongst other factors. This framework was not only crucial to my individual enquiry but has been the bible for all other researchers, students, non government organisations, and environmentalists in Bali and across the world.
In my 2017 field research I sat down with local people, expats, scholars, business owners, charity
founders, and tourists to listen, from their perspective what was happening. This is what I heard
on the ground in Bali:
“hundreds of litres of water seeps into the earth daily”
Over extraction. Poorly built pools in villas, hotels, and guesthouses across South Bali meant
that hundreds of litres of water seeps into the earth daily. This results in the over extraction of
water to continually refill pools for tourists
Corruption. I was informed of cases of fake certifications and pay offs to avoid being “caught
out” or more accurately paying legitimate engineers to rectify their dysfunctional water
• Greenwashing. I don’t know if you know the term? When one claims to solve an environmental
issue but instead, creates a problem. Sadly, greenwashing is a product of our fake news era and
something we should all be awake to. Unfortunately, this is ripe in Bali which made it even
harder to sift through all the “solutions” to find a genuine path to solve depleting water sources.
Sustainable, ethical, and eco fashion have flooded the market targeting Yoga-seeking tourists as
well as those seeking out their own Eat, Pray, Love.
The wealth divide. In Bali, the rich are able to gain access to clean stores of water by hiring
expensive equipment to drill deeper into the earth. While the poor only have access to hand dug
wells resulting in drinking water well below international quality standards
“I feel a huge sense of responsibility to do something”
I had a thirst for solutions, I also acknowledged I was and still am today, in a position of privilege. I
feel a huge sense of responsibility to do something about what I had learnt in books and through
recounts by local people – often information that I could never share due to its sensitivity.
“empowering the next generation with the knowledge of water
stewardship… I was filled with hope”
When I sat down with IDEP Foundation at their beautiful office in Gianyar, Bali we discussed the lack of water available to local people, the over extraction by the wealthy, the proposed golf course in the North by Donald Trump (golf courses use an exorbitant amount of water and take land from indigenous people).
As IDEP Foundation told me of their Bali Water Protection Program and how it offers a scientifically proven solution with a long term plan, that is, empowering the next generation with the knowledge of water stewardship to ensure generations to come protect and conserve fragile water sources, I was filled with hope.
Since then Corethics has been a strong advocate for raising the profile of this local solution to
create access to clean #waterforbali. We are committed to ensuring access to clean water is not just for the wealthy but reaches the poor too.
At the time when I was conducting field research in 2017 the world awoke to the need to break
up, from our almost 50 year relationship, with plastic. Some of those viral videos getting around
on facebook and instagram, showing blankets of plastic pollution lapping the shores, was sadly in
Thankfully, I learnt of the incredible local solutions such as Bye Bye Plastic Bags and Trash Hero.
These initiatives are working to combat a cultural shift in waste, a movement to reduce the sale of
single use plastic, to reduce plastics in ceremony, and in local markets.
“there is a lesser known, almost invisible threat to clean #waterforbali”
When we think of water pollution we almost always think of plastic. But, there is a lesser known,
an almost invisible threat to clean #waterforbali. That is chemical pollution.
I met with Cat Wheeler, author of Bali Daze:
Freefall off the Tourist Trail, and we spoke of the incredible craftsmanship and artistry of the
Balinese people. While something we admired together, it is also something the fashion industry
admire too, especially Australian designers wanting to manufacture offshore. In Denpasar, the
capital of Bali, there are at least 200 unregistered textiles factories alone. Across the south of Bali
homes are transformed into factories and it estimated that thousands exist. Why is this important?
“when chemicals … are not correctly treated and are flushed into local water ways, you have an uncontrollable problem”
Screen printing is a popular dye process in Bali but it uses large amounts of water. And, when
chemicals from the dye process are not correctly treated and are flushed into local water ways,
you have an uncontrollable problem. And, with sarongs, dresses, t-shirts, and scarves a popular
tourist souvenir the risk to Bali’s beautiful natural environment and people remains high.
I have seen with my own eyes the unsafe work conditions that Indonesian garment workers face. I
have seen chemicals discharged into local waterways. But, I have also seen an anthropologist
turn a family business into a plant based natural dye house that captures the water used in the dye process and filtrates the dyes through the use of plants. There is hope. This became the drive behind Corethics Textiles Project: Bali.
A Curious Beginning
When you love something, you want to know all about it, the good and the bad. You have this
need to protect it, nurture it, feed it, see it thrive, even share the love you have for it with others.
Corethics began from a love of Indonesia, through connections with local people, a deep sense of
curiosity for culture, for the natural environment, and for travel. Attempting to narrow our scope
down to one island was tough. In my research I explored “What is the impact of Mass Tourism on
life in Bali, Lombok, and Sumbawa?”.
“tourism industry was adversely affecting local people, their land, and their wellbeing”
Bali stood out, as you could imagine, as being at a crisis point compared to its lesser known
neighbours Lombok and Sumbawa. Knowing that water sources were quickly dwindling away and
pollution was swallowing the beautiful island of the gods, I knew that my focus was required in
Bali. What I found was a harrowing reality that the tourism industry was adversely affecting local
people, their land, and their wellbeing, and this issue, whilst very well known amongst local
people, had been made little progress on correcting decades of abuse.
Our position isn’t to tell you not to go to Bali because this will only push local people into poverty,
creating another issue. This moment you are in right now, is your moment, to think about how
precious water is for life, human life, for our health, for plants, for food, and for non-human
species whom we share this incredible planet with. By empowering yourself with the knowledge,
compassion, and the will to re-write the story for Bali you are choosing to be a part of the
“we are so lucky, in Australia, to have clean running water from the tap…don’t you think our neighbours in Bali deserve that too?”
Ready to take action?
Help IDEP Foundation’s Bali Water Protection reach their goals by
• Adopt a River
• Adopt Water
• Adopt a Well
Get behind Corethics’ Textiles Project: Bali to deliver
• tailored environmental and social solutions
We are so lucky in Australia, to have clean running water from the tap but, don’t you think our
neighbours in Bali deserve that too? Corethics acknowledges that we, the Australian community
cannot solve this complex issue alone nor should the responsibility be left solely to us. We
desperately need Government action too. So please, if you haven’t done so already sign our
petition to ask the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Marise Payne, to prioritise and take action on clean
water from the tap in Bali!
We are always looking for passionate volunteers to support our work from more formal
arrangements such as sitting on our Board or seasonal positions like our events. Introduce
yourself via email today firstname.lastname@example.org